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Top 7 Healthy Cuisines to Serve on Valentine’s Day


by Dr. Nancy Rahnama

Director of Health & Nurition

Love it or not, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and that usually means one thing: eating a lot. Couples go out for dinner or stay in and cook together, and single people celebrate the self-love they have for themselves (yes - celebrate!) by treating themselves to some of their favorite delicacies.

The problem is, most Valentine’s day choices just aren’t healthy! We have a tendency to overindulge with large, heavy meals (that don’t do much for your libido, by the way) or with sweet treats, such as chocolate and ice cream. It’s not exactly the best way to say “I love you” to your body.

It’s totally possible to eat delicious food and feel completely satisfied, and not wake up the next day feeling sluggish or weighing more than you’d like. When you’re looking for your Valentine’s day meal, skip burgers and steak and try one of these top 7 delicious cuisines.

7 Delicious Cuisines to Try on Valentine’s Day 

1. Greek

So many ingredients within the Mediterranean diet are known for their heart health and life expectancy benefits, so navigating to a Mediterranean meal will ensure you don’t feed your body with empty calories. Many Greek ingredients are best enjoyed fresh, such as vegetables and fruit, plus the famous Greek olive oil and yogurt. Whether you cook or eat at a restaurant this Valentine’s Day, look for simple Greek dishes such as souvlaki, grilled fish, seafood, and greek salads.

 2. Japanese

Japanese food is typically rich in fresh vegetables and seafood with a lot of heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids. While it’s one of the most aesthetically beautiful cuisines in the world, the fundamental ingredients are also quite simple. Look for sashimi (raw fish), miso soup (made with fermented bean paste - great for your gut), natto (fermented soybeans), sushi, and vegetable stir fry.

Alongside Sardinia, Costa Rica, California, and Greece, the Japanese region of Okinawa has been cited as one of the “blue zones” which are zones with a higher density of people living longer than average.

3. Korean

While not as well-known as Greek or Japanese food, traditional Korean cuisine is one of the most versatile and healthy foods out there (provided you don’t just go for Korean BBQ chicken).

Like Japanese food, it’s rich in fermented foods like kimchi and doenjang (comparable to miso) which are great sources of probiotics for gut health. In Korean cuisine, you’ll also find dishes full of ginger, garlic, and Korean red pepper (gochugaru) which are all good for lowering cholesterol, while offering many other health benefits.

Korean food uses a lot of seaweed like dashima, nori, and wakame, which are great for replacing that fishy flavor if you don’t eat seafood. If you’re looking for something wholesome, try kimchi, tofu, or soybean stew, noodles with vegetables and spicy red pepper sauce. If you have rice or noodles, stick to a cup or less and bulk up your veggies.

Even Korean desserts are relatively healthy: if you’re feeling adventurous, look into trying tteok (chewy Korean rice cakes) - these have a similar consistency to mochi and are often filled with red bean paste or chestnuts. They’re naturally vegan and low in sugar. Just don’t expect them to be as sweet as something you find in the candy aisle at the grocery store!

4. Thai

Enjoyed across the world, Thai food is high in vegetables and rich flavors brought in by turmeric, coriander, ginger, lemongrass, and chili pepper. These spices provide a great source of anti-inflammatory properties. Look for dishes that are packed with veggies, spices, and seafood - spicy Thai noodle soups are particularly delicious! 

5. Spanish

Full of fresh seafood and veggies, Spanish food is another typical Mediterranean diet. In Spain, you’ll find that most people enjoy tapas, which are small plates rather than large portions. This type of set-up allows for flavor diversity and trying several dishes while still maintaining good portion control. In Spanish cuisine, look out for vegetables, fresh seafood, and sources of healthy oils like olives, avocado, nuts, and extra virgin olive oil.

6. Indian

Packed with flavor through intense herbs and spices, India’s cuisine is famously rich in garlic, cinnamon, cumin, chili, turmeric, cardamom, and coriander. These spices are well studied for their anti-inflammatory effects, blood sugar-stabilizing effects, and the potential to slow cancer growth. Not only is Indian food hugely diverse, but it also offers a wide range of vegetarian and vegan dishes. There’s so much to choose from, from saag aloo (spinach and potato) and Tarka dal (a garlicky lentil dish) to saucy vegetable curries and sumptuous chickpea-based side dishes. Try not to have both rice and naan bread with your meal, and stick to thinner curries to make sure you don’t eat too many carbs.

Indulge your senses in something wholesome this Valentine’s Day.

This year, rather than ordering takeout, why not make cooking your labor of love? Show your appreciation for your partner and yourself by preparing something nutritious, delicious, and new! By eating well, you’re honoring your body and providing your loved one with something that will energize the mind, nourish the body, and stimulate the palette.

 


Dr. Nancy Rahnama, MD, ABOM, ABIM, is a medical doctor board certified by both the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Internal Medicine. Her specialty is Clinical Nutrition, that is, the use of nutrition by a medical doctor to diagnose and treat disease. Dr. Rahnama has helped thousands of people achieve their goals of weight loss, gut health, improved mood and sleep, and managing chronic disease. In addition to her private practice in Beverly Hills, she is also the co-founder and Director of Nutrition for Dr Nancy MD.

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